An Interview with Rapper Ali Sahir
With his single, “Chicken Curry,” out now, we took some time to hear more from Ali Sahir. Read below to learn more about Ali Sahir, the story behind his single, and what’s to come.
Hi Ali Sahir! Let’s start with how did you get your artist name?
It’s pretty wild, honestly. I’ve been rapping and making music for so long that I’ve had 3 stage names before finally settling on one. My older brother gave me the name Word-Problems when I was 13. That was around when I started taking music seriously. I changed it to just my first name when I was 17 and rocked that for the next 4 years. The problem was that just “Ali” is a very popular name, and it was really hard to find my music because of the amount of Ali’s there are on every streaming platform. Last year, I made the biggest transition in my life when I dropped out of school in Massachusetts (my hometown) to pursue my music career in Atlanta. Before my move, I experienced a wild spiritual awakening when I was on mushrooms where I saw my future self. From then on, I was drawn to new age spirituality. A friend of mine gave me my first tarot reading before I left, and the first card that popped out was The Magician. Sahir in Arabic means “the magician” or “the enchanted one,” and so I attached it to the back of my name.
What city are you from and where are you based now?
I’m originally from Worcester, Massachusetts. I don’t think that I would consider it my real home though. I’ve been based in Atlanta, Georgia for almost a year now and nothing feels more like home than this city. I really discovered who I was and my style of music in such little time. I like to compare the A to the hyperbolic time chamber in Dragon Ball Z. The city made me really realize why people like Andre 3000, Big Boi, Killer Mike, JID, and Earthgang are so good at what they do. There’s a funk to the city like no other.
I’ve found so many pockets of cool people in the underground Hip-Hop community here. There’s an event called, “Cartridge,” that goes on in Edgewood every Wednesday night where a couple producers from the community will play sets while there’s video game tournaments going on in the background. It’s undoubtedly epic and something I look forward to every week. I’ve made so much good music with the people that I’ve met there. Shoutout to the whole Cartridge fam! Follow @CatridgeATL if you’re in the area!
At what point in your life did you decide to pursue a career in music? How did you get started?
I was young when I decided that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. 13 was when I took it seriously. That was a bad time in my life too. At my lowest, I found the years of listening to the old Hip-Hop tapes my brother put on my Mp3 player to be making their way into my own bars. To be honest, music was meant to happen for me. I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t like music except for band class. I hate music education, but that’s a whole other conversation. Whenever I was in the car with my mom, she would always play some eclectic South Asian music. The way the Quran is recited is undoubtedly melodic and that was played throughout my house. When I took rap seriously, I had strayed away from a lot of those previous sounds as I was becoming a teenager, but since I moved to ATL, it’s made its way back into my music. Even though I took rap seriously a long time ago, it’s the evolution of myself and all of the things that I’ve experienced that have made me realize that right now is the most serious that I’ve been about music. I spent a lot of years teaching myself how to produce my own beats, record, mix, master, and distribute my music, and now I do everything on my own independently.
Has your upbringing played a role in shaping who you are and defining your sound today? If so, how?
My upbringing was not easy. As a Pakistani kid in a very staunchly Muslim household that was placed in an American environment, I experienced an extreme cultural disconnect. I had trouble connecting with my peers because my home was so different. This turned into bullying, which was often racially motivated. I didn’t come home to the happiest home either which was another weight on my conscience. I think what really changed my life for the better was meeting my OG Abdullah. Y’all might recognize him as the previous host of Bong Appetite, but yes, Abdullah Saeed, is my elder brother. Abdullah was the one who taught me how to rap, make beats, smoke weed, mix and master my music, but most importantly, he taught me how to be myself. I don’t know where I’d be without his guidance and his support. He gave me the sauce and, now I have my own recipe. I’m also family friends with The Kominas who are a Punk Rock band from Massachusetts. They definitely were a big inspiration for my music as well.
How would you describe your sound to readers who may not be familiar with you?
I’m heavily influenced by both old school and new school Hip-Hop as well as all of the Eastern and South Asian music I listened to as a kid. My sound is a combination of the 2. I want to incorporate more international samples into my music. I always find that samples I love to use are always from other countries. I’ve traveled to a lot of other countries in my life so far as well and definitely absorbed a lot of live music from them. The combination with my extreme Hip-Hop head brain opened a whole new door for me.
Do you have any hobbies outside of music? What do you do to stay creative?
Recently, I’ve taken up cooking! My biggest single is called, “Chicken Curry,” and I felt like I had to do it justice by getting back into cooking. I cooked back in college, but when I moved to ATL, everything was happening so fast that I couldn’t find the time to anymore. I finally just got back into it and am preparing to make some wild creations. I’m gonna treat cooking just like I do music too. The way that I treat my music is becoming a big reference point in my life for the other things that I decide to do.
Who are some of your main musical influences?
Honestly, I could name every big rapper in the universe, but the ones that really molded me were Black Thought, Biggie Smalls, Wu Tang, Tyler, Ravi Shankar, Flying Lotus, Earl, The Kominas, and MF DOOM.
Who would be a dream to collaborate with?
My dream collaboration is Anderson .Paak. He’s honestly my favorite artist right now!
What are some of your future music career goals?
I’ve realized that my mission in life is to help others with what I create whether that be music, food, art, spirituality, or whatever I decide to do. I know that I want to be mainly known for my music, but side quests are always fun. That’s why Lil Uzi Vert is super inspiring to me. The videos of him just doing random things and acts of kindness are honestly amazing. There’s so much to do in this life, and we honestly have to make that more apparent and accessible to everyone.
Now onto your release, “Chicken Curry.” What inspired this song?
My newfound sense of browness and the state of my people. I feel like since the British took over India and Pakistan for such a long amount of time, it left our people very closed off from the rest of the world. I wanted to bridge the gap and explain a desi perspective through Hip-Hop.
What is “Chicken Curry” about in your own words?
“Chicken Curry” is a song that talks about the colonization of South Asia while using food as a metaphor. I talk about how our culture was cooked, burnt, and scarred by the British Empire, and I compare it to the way that I was racially bullied in my formative years. Making this song made me feel proud to brown for the first time in my life.
What is your favorite lyric in “Chicken Curry” and why?
“The blunted second coming with the gorgeous hair
I look like Jesus did before they told he was fair”
I’m basically telling everyone that Jesus was not and was, in fact, a brown man from the middle east. It’s bold. It’s provocative, but most importantly, it tells the truth.
What message do you hope fans take away from your music and from “Chicken Curry?”
I want to break the stereotypes on brown people forever. I want to open a new conversation about equality and bring a new perspective to Hip-Hop and just music in general. I feel like with everything that I’ve experienced, thus far, I have a responsibility to get my point across.
What’s one of your proudest moments of your music career so far?
Right now! I’m fully independent. I run my own show on my own budget. I have amazing friends and am a part of the next wave of musicians from Atlanta who are going to be huge. My numbers are going up everyday, and I’m just steadily riding that wave at my own pace. My name is starting to ring bells, and it’s really amazing!
What would you say are the greatest lessons you’ve learned so far?
Patience with anything you do is key to great results!
What’s next for you? Are you working on any upcoming projects that we should be on the lookout for?
I don’t have definitive dates for the fans yet, but I will say that I’m going to drop my album before the summer. I have 2 singles from the album already out which are “Chicken Curry,” my newest one, and “Gold Frames” which dropped on the 11th. There’s definitely gonna be one more single that drops before the album. I’m currently working on music videos and all sorts of content to promote the project.
Where can we follow you on social media?